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Mills girl benefits from Kruzin 4 Kidz Club's record year

Whitney Walz

The local Kruzin' 4 Kidz Motorcycle Club is celebrating a record year in 2012 by helping out an area girl.

The club's fundraising efforts were recently extended to help a fourth area person in a one-year period - an achievement never before realized by the club.

Kruzin' 4 Kidz will be sending a $26,000 check to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and the recipient of the wish is 17-year-old Whitnei Walz of New York Mills.

Whitnei and members of her family were on hand Aug. 23 for a special ceremony at the Wadena Elks Lodge. The enclosed trailer that is used by the club is adorned with the handprints of 18 beneficiaries of the club's fundraising efforts through the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

"We are honored to fulfill this wish for you," Committee Member Ray Stach said as Walz put her print and first name on the trailer.

The wish that Walz will see fulfilled will be a Caribbean Cruise. She will be making the trip with her father and mother, Larry and Rena.

"I get to go to more than one place," Walz said. "I can go to different islands and see different cultures. I'm very, very grateful. It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance."

Walz found out three years ago that she has Behcet's Disease, a rare disorder that turns the body's auto-immune system against itself. The disease is a painful one, and she makes trips to Mayo Clinic in Rochester for medical assistance. She also gives herself shots.

"Even though some days I don't want to get out of bed, I've got to. I've got to put a smile on my face," Walz said.

Walz has not been able to participate in sports, but she has refused to let her disease limit her in any other way. She aims to get her General Educational Development (GED) this fall at M State-Wadena, and is interested in pursuing a career in cosmetology or becoming an ultrasound technician.

Walz enjoys hanging out with her friends, riding horses, swimming and attending bonfires.

One of Whitnei's oldest friends is Cheri Kaillen, who moved from New York Mills to Washington State a few years ago. Kaillen has been back to see Walz a couple of times, and was among the first to hear the thrilling news.

"She's an awesome person," Kaillen said. "She's always there for you when you need her."

Kruzin' 4 Kidz holds a motorcycle run every summer, and more than 200 bikers participated in the Aug. 18 event, which was attended for the first time by the founders of Make-A-Wish, Frank and Kitty Shankwitz. The fundraising efforts of the club also received a boost from the annual Pig and Wing Challenge, which was held Aug. 4 at the Elks Lodge. Other club funding comes from sponsorships.

"We went over the $100,000 mark this year," Treasurer Randy Atchley said of the 7-year-old club. "This is the first time we've sponsored four children in one year."